Click to shut off Bing Crosby and Bells of St. Mary's

Photos and story from  Academy 1918 then photos from SMOP 1951- 1969 Are below.



 The following is copied from a text written by Sister M. Rosalia C.S.J. , teacher at the original St. Mary's Academy.  It is her account of the School and the tornado which destroyed the building on Mother's Day, May 10, 1942, but it did not destroy the Spirit of Our Lady nor the students who attended there.  Thanks to the kindness of Sharon Martin Causby (Class of "69)  the text was retyped into a word document and has made reading it so much easier. Thank-you Sharon.


       St. Mary of the Plains Academy had its beginning in a Presbyterian foundation known as Soule College, made in 1888 and located northwest of Dodge City.  The Catholic foundation was begun in 1912 when Bishop Hennessy purchased the property for the purpose of establishing an academy of the religious and cultural training of girls, and placed the Sisters of St. Joseph in charge of it.

       The first Sisters to arrive for duty were Sisters Attracta and Edith, who arrive in Dodge City on an early afternoon train. Sister Attracta gives this account of their first night: “We sought out a place, least infested with flies, where we might eat the lunch we had brought with us.  Then we rummaged about and found some old quilts with which we made a floor bed in the second story of the dormitory building.  The caretaker, Mike Foley, supplied us with a candle stub and two matches, warning us to make a go of them as he had no more. The first match failed, but the second struck true.  We retired, fearful lest the snakes, bats or owls protest our intrusion.”

       The dormitory building served as both school and living quarters while the administration building was being renovated. The first school term under the auspices opened in September, 1913. The first year’s work began as co-educational with an enrollment of thirty pupils. The academy maintained a bus service for the accommodation of the day pupils and to convey both Sisters and resident students to Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Church. The pastor, Rev. J.C. Sullivan, said Mass at the academy twice a week.

       Welcome assistance was given the Sisters by the ladies of Sacred Heart Parish.  They prepared linens, bedding and other furnishings and donated a new regalico altar for the chapel, and a bronze statue of Our Lady of the Plains for the campus. The farmers lent their teams and services in work on the grounds.

       In May, 1914, the Rev. H. Hernandez, a Spanish priest from Mexico and a graduate of the University of Salamanca, was appointed resident chaplain to the academy. Twenty-eight years of faithful service proved his invaluable worth to the personnel of the school.


By October of that year the administration building was finished. The school from now on was conducted for girls only, with a teaching staff of sixteen Sisters.  Sister Colette was superior; Sister Adelaide Marie, principal; Sisters Dorothea and Madeline were in charge of the music classes; Sister Aurelia of the art work.  The other members of the staff were Sisters Barbara, Margaret Mary, Attracta, Josepha, Camilla, Adele, Flavia, Eusebius, Prudentia, Agnes and Sylvester.

       On October 28, 1914, the Academy of St. Mary of the Plains was solemnly dedicated by the Rt. Rev. J.J. Hennessy.


     The first class was graduated on June 24, 1916. The members were: Mary Young of Parsons, Marguerite Murphy of Pratt and Mary Cordes of Aleppo.

       During the flu epidemic of 1918, the Sisters dismissed the girls and converted the dormitory building into an emergency hospital under the direction of Dr. Claude McCarthy, with county and city officials and the Red Cross cooperating in the work. Seventy-two patients were cared for with only one death. One entire family those of Joe Kliesen, including his brother-in-law, Tony Doll, were ill in the hospital all at one time. John Miller was general “handy man,” especially in carrying trays to the top floor. He had an able assistant from Syracuse whose name is not recalled but who volunteered his services. Having once lived in Alaska, he thought nothing of trudging daily to town in the deep snowdrifts to get the mail.

       Under the versatile direction of various superiors and principals, the school curriculum continued to expand: new equipment was added to meet the demands of a growing enrollment; both interior and exterior were renovated and improved.

       Four organizations of the school merit special mention. Sister Cecilia established the Cecilian Club and developed the initial talents of her pupils to charming execution. This club was the second of its kind in the state to be federated. Upon Sister’s death in 1929, the organization presented a sanctuary lamp to the chapel in memoriam.  Since Sister Cecilia’s death, Sister Imelda has fostered this musical and social contact and at the annual contest sponsored by the Kansas State Federation of Music Clubs, students from the academy rank very high.


Do you remember any of these Sisters??


 In 1935, Lois Flanagan of Dodge City won first place for her student’s music scrapbook. One of the amateur composers, Rose Ann Kinkelaar, received commendation and autograph from Prof. Edgar Stillman Kelley.  In 1938 Lucille Tully took superior rating in voice, and the following year received both a state and a national certificate of excellence.  In the present year Viola Kearney and Melba Ackerman were rated excellent for solo work and voice; Florence Harker and Eileen Schmidt the same rating for a duet.

       Special stress has been placed on bringing the Sodality Unit close in line with the program of the State Sodality director, Father Weisenberg. A contestant speaker has been entered in the Apologetic Forensics each year.  In the present year Evelyn Doll of Wright placed second in the state finals held in Topeka.


       The St. Mary of the Plains Retreat Association was organized in 1925, through the zeal of Father Klug, pastor of Sacred Heart Church.  This movement has been a great stimulus in promoting yearly retreats for both men and women, held at the academy every summer.

       The Alumnae Association was organized in 1938. This association promotes the general welfare of their Alma Mater and has an annual home-coming in late summer.

       St. Mary of the Plains has sent her graduates into the teaching and nursing professions, into the business positions and into homes of their own. Two former members of the faculty have since been elected to the office of General Superior of the congregation at Mount Saint Mary’s Convent, Wichita. Mother Collette held the office form 1915 to 1921. Mother Prudentia, at present filling the office, taught at the academy from 1914 to 1918.

       The school year of 1941-42 was the climax. Faculty and students worked together in a round of spiritual, cultural and educational activities. The Sodality and Cecilians were very active; a speech department met a vital need; a general spirit of happy co-operation reigned.  There were conventions, plays, musicals, with not infrequent diversions of going into Dodge City for some special entertainments. This year’s faculty

were: Sister Scholstica, superior and principal; Sister Thomas, history and German; Sister Bernardine, librarian; Sister John Joseph, commerce; Sisters Imelda and Fernanda, music; Sister Rosalie, English and biology; Sister Florence, mathematics; Sister Evarista, Latin and social studies; Sister Ignatius, speech and dramatics. Co-workers were: Sisters Ursula, Bernadette, Hilda, Loretto, Emerentia, Gervasia, Bertille, Victor, Oswald, Christella, Mary Carol, Francita and Clare Louis.


       This long chronicle of achievements, this twenty-nine-year struggle through hardships and lean finances, ended abruptly on the evening of last May 10 when a cyclone demolished the administration building and damaged the dormitory beyond repair.  Surely the recording angel, looking back through the years and noting the achievement of Sisters and parents at the cost of great sacrifice, will note in this book, “Well done. Enter into the joys of a new and better foundation. Continue the unselfish service to the people of southwestern Kansas.”




Mother’s Day, May 10, 1942, was the day chosen by God to witness the passing of St. Mary of the Plains Academy, Dodge City, Kans. For fifty-three years the stately old institution had stood like a patient mother looking out over the wide level stretches of the prairies. For nearly thirty of those years the Sisters of St. Joseph had presided in her classrooms and hundreds of eager young girls had thronged her halls, seeking a truly Catholic education of mind and heart. Twenty-five of those girls have consecrated themselves to God in the religious life, and are following in the footsteps of their teachers. Others have become outstanding examples of Christian Catholic womanhood in various walks of life. Scattered throughout America today, these old graduates will pause to grieve at the passing of their Alma Mater, for St. Mary’s was peculiarly fortunate in securing and in keeping the loyalty and love of her children.


       Sunday, May 10, was a gloomy, damp, windy day out of doors; but within the academy there was no gloom as the girls busily and happily prepared for the evening ceremony which was to end with the crowning of the Blessed Virgin.



At 7 o’clock the girls assembled to recite the living rosary.  Then, led by three-year old Charlene Doll, the procession approached the Blessed Virgin’s altar.  After the singing of the familiar old him, “Bring Flowers of the Fairest,” Evelyn Doll, Prefect of the Sodality, placed a crown of roses on the head of Our Lady.  As the strains of the Salve Regina filled the spacious chapel, each girl in turn advanced to the altar. Some placed lighted candles in the candelabra; others piled flowers in the vases and baskets around the shrine. During the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament which followed, there were few dry eyes among those who knelt in the pews.  It was a moment of exaltation a moment of pure joy with a mysterious undercurrent of sadness.

       As the girls filed out of the chapel, a hailstorm broke and the wind roses in fury; but windstorms were familiar visitors at St. Mary’s, and nobody was worried about this.  Ten minutes later, however, the blood-chilling shriek of the tornado filled the house, spreading terror and dismay.  Its merciless force wrenched windows from their frames, dashed pictures from walls amid a hail of shattered glass. It tossed heavy pieces of furniture about as if they were mere toys. It lifted the roof from the venerable building, and crumbled walls as they fell inward.  Within five minutes all was over; St. Mary’s lay in ruins.

       When those within the wrecked home were able to think calmly, they realized that positive miracles had been wrought in their midst.  Of the more than seventy persons scattered throughout the big building, not one had been injured.  Fr. Weisenberg, State Director of the K.S.S.U., had planned to be at the academy that evening.  Had he not missed his train, he would have been speaking to the girls and Sisters in the chapel when disaster struck.  One hesitates even to imagine what might have happened in that case. Sister Victor was busy about the altar when the storm descended.  At a call from father Hernandez, she opened the tabernacle, removed the Blessed Sacrament and, with flying timbers, bricks and splintered glass hitting around her, and piling up in front of her, carried the sacred burden to the door of the chapel and gave it into the hands of the waiting priest.

How the young Sister succeeded in making her way out of the falling structure will always be a mystery to those who witnessed the feat.

       In the gym beneath the chapel the girls had gathered for a short recreation period.  When the windows blew in and the ceiling began to disintegrate above their heads, they rushed into the hallway where they cowered in terror until Sister Emerentia led them to comparative safety at the east end of the hall. There was no hysteria, no panic.  The girls wept and prayed quietly while the danger passed over.

       Four girls had entered a car at the west door. The car was lifted, turned around, and again set down - smashed and twisted – 150 yards away, with the girls frightened and shaken but, miraculously, uninjured.  So it was in many other instances. Material things were sent hurtling through the air and crashing to the floor, while the human beings in their midst were preserved unharmed.  Though many electric fixtures were torn down, and ragged wires hung from ruined ceilings, no fire broke out and lights continued to burn.  The pilot light in the gas furnace was not extinguished; telephone service was not interrupted.

       When news of the tragedy reached the people of the city, they responded with characteristic promptness and charity.  A steady stream of cars poured into the campus; kind-hearted men and women vied with each other in caring for the girls and Sisters.  In a very short time every girl was provided with a refuge for the night, and the Sisters were housed at St. Anthony’s hospital.

       Thus ended the life of St. Mary of the Plains Academy, after long years of service to the people of the Southwest.  No more will the passing traveler see the graceful figures of gay young girls tripping across the campus, nor the dark-robed Sisters passing quietly to and fro. Gone now the joyous shout and carefree laughter of young people at play; gone the hum of the busy classroom; gone the music of voices raised in song and prayer!

       Gone? Oh, no, not really gone. For, shrined in the hearts of these hundreds who call her their Alma Mater, of those who have taught in her classrooms, and of the faithful priest who for twenty-eight years has served at her altar, St. Mary’s will abide

forever. For them she will ever stand firm and strong in the heart of the western prairies, the blue dome of the western sky above her, and the winds of the west whistling and sighing around her.


                                         Sister M. Rosalia, C.S.J.

                                         Teacher at St. Mary’s Academy



Chapel Apse and building before tornado



This is how the chapel appeared after the tornado struck. Sister Victor carried the Blessed Sacrament over the debris to Father Hilary Hernandez without missing a step or falling into the open floor below.


They rode the wind






The 1969.5  Graduation Class............